Dunscar Woods: Tree Thinning

14th October 2021

Dunscar Wood is a new woodland near Egerton, Bolton. The wood occupies 5.7 hectares of what was formerly green fields which were bought by the Woodland Trust in 1998 as part of their millennial Woodlands on Your Doorstep project. Old maps do show a small patch of woods in the area but not of any great size or significance.

The Dunscar Wood Management plan says that in 1999 wood was planted with a mix of sessile oak, ash, birch, cherry, rowan, aspen, holly, alder, hawthorn, blackthorn and goat willow. Mature sycamore is also present and is thought to be a remnant of previous field boundaries.

Pedunculate Oak
Pedunculate Oak
Birch
Birch

New woodlands such as this are often planted quite densely, with only 2 to 3 metres between each tree. Although there is always some loss through animal grazing, disease such as ash die back, and climatic conditions, the trees take up more room as they grow and need to be thinned out.

Another purpose of thinning is to improve the age structure of the woodland. One of the problems of planting lots of trees at once is that all of the trees are more or less the same age hence the mix of long lived trees such as oak and short life-spanned species such as birch. The Trust envisages that over the next 80 years the short lived species will die off, his will provide standing deadwood and fallen logs which will benefit a range of bird and invertebrate species; gaps in the canopy will benefit also woodland floor flora. This area of Bolton has limited natural tree cover and a limited mix of species, as the wood regenerates naturally this should improve and the wood will become self sustaining.

Candidate trees had been marked up by a Woodland Trust officer, many of them were diseased and posed a danger to the rest of the wood and the wood’s users. The day before the task many of these marked tree were taken down by chainsaw, leaving Sunday’s group the job of cutting them up and making the brash into habitat piles and log stacks. The day was also a good opportunity to train some of the younger members, and Duke of Edinburgh students, how to fell trees safely and how to use tools correctly.

Despite the amount of material dealt with there is still plenty left to do and we may need to come back at a later date. In the meantime well done everyone. Thanks to Rick, Tom and Caroline for organising, and special thanks to Mr. Riley of the Woodland Trust for letting us work here. Also thanks to Dunscar Industrial estate for allowing us to park.

Chew Moor: Field of Screams

October 31st 2021

Autumn Crocus
Autumn Crocus

Chew Moor, Lostock, a Site of Biological Importance, the importance being the autumn crocus that sprout up in September and October. The story is that the Knights Hospitallers brought them back from the Crusades, it was believed that they were effective against the Black Death but they were also more valuable than gold because of saffron. To prevent the valuable saffron being stolen the Knights laid a curse on the flowers, binding the spirit of one of their own to the meadow for all eternity. The ritual used to do this was gruesome and hideous and unbreakable, it is said, that on grim days his tall hooded shade can be seen walking the perimeter of the meadow in the exact areas where the crocus grows.

As BCV arrived on a cold October day the pale knight was already making his presence felt; punctured tyres, flat batteries, and sudden illnesses plagued the volunteers. Strange ghostly faces peered from the undergrowth as workers tried to cut back branches from the path, evil screams emanated from deep amongst the trees, and gloves would mysteriously go missing.

The volunteers tried to appease the vengeful spirit with cake and tea, and explained that the work was to help the meadow not damage it, cutting back the hedge and the trees would help improve habitat for birds and also help the flowers. The spook gave a hollow laugh and possessed a couple of our party to help speed the work along. He also made another one of the group so obsessed with the long handled pruning saw that we had to leave bits of him behind buried by the path.

All in all a typical BCV task.

If you want to see more creepiness go to Hallween Hall of Horrors.

National Tree Week

Longsight Park, Bolton, 6th December 2020

The Tree Council Logo

The Tree Council first established National Tree Week in March 1975 to support national replanting of trees after the outbreak of Dutch Elm disease. Each year over 250,000 people join in and plant trees across the country. National Tree Week is the UK’s largest tree celebration, annually launching the start of the winter planting season.

This year BCV has gotten involved with an event at Longsight Park, Bolton. Kids of all ages took part and planted over 300 trees in a neglected corner of the park. Using the tried and tested ‘T’ cut planting technique a mix of field maple, silver birch and sessile oak were planted along pre-prepared lanes. The trees were then protected using a first for us, cardboard tree shelters. The shelter seem a lot more durable that you’d expect and will protect the trees from grazing by deer and short-tailed field voles.

All photos were taken with parents’ permission. Family groups arrived at pre-arranged times to maintain social distancing and Tools were sanitised between uses. Thanks to T&C for organising and all the families for participating. Don’t forget to check Norman’s Christmas Cheer after viewing the photos, no captions this time, the photos speak for themselves. Happy Tree Week.

A Cut Above

Coppicing at Doffcocker Lodge, 8th November 2020

At the start of Lockdown 2.0 looked like BCV would be locking away the tools and hanging up our gloves for the duration but at the eleventh hour Bolton Council said we were good to go.. so we went. This time it was Doffcocker Lodge Local Nature Reserve, Bolton’s first, and for many years only LNR. The lodge was originally built to supply water for Bolton’s industry and made use of the site’s elevation and plentiful water supply from the numerous springs and streams running into the valley. Today it is a haven for bird life including kingfisher, reed bunting, willow tit, and an occasional stop over for bittern.

Doffcocker 2015
Doffcocker 2015

Our task today was harvesting osier stems from one of the 3 compartments on the northern shore. Coppicing, as it’s called is an age old woodland management technique that exploits our native trees’ ability to regrow after being damaged. Cutting these trees down causes them to regrow new shoots and stems which can be cut for firewood, charcoal making, or craft materials. In this case we’re coppicing a type of willow called osier to harvest stems for use in hurdle weaving projects at local schools. All of the willow that was cut will regrow and in doing so create habitat for birds and invertebrates. To prove it, we found a number of nests nestling between the willow stems.

Doffcocker Nest
Birds nest in willow coppice

So our super six set to work, only stopping to take a 2 minute break at 11 o’clock for Remembrance Day. In previous years our mass turnouts would have cleared the whole compartment in an afternoon but with our numbers limited to six we only managed to cut about two thirds- but we also created a dead hedge, harvested masses of stems, planted some sticks that should grow into more willow trees, and tidy up some rubbish. In three year’s time we can harvest here again. So, not just a win-win, but a win-win-win.

Incidentally, Doffcocker is derived from the site’s Celtic name meaning The Black Winding Stream. I bet you really wanted to know that, so now some photos.